The ongoing Convention on Biodiversity has brought together not just parties and NGOs from around the world, but also indigenous people from across the country, wellacquainted with nature and its nuances.
What’s at stake? Their land, forest and even their coast. Having been the guardians of nature for decades now, they stand at the convention to make their voices heard.
Exploitation in the name of ‘development’ is their main concern and their dependency on nature has accelerated the problem.
Two such groups, the Muttaraiyars from Tamil Nadu and Raikas from Rajasthan, talk about how the government needs a reality check on the existing resources and people living in association with it, before getting into any agreements.
Raikas Fight for Their Forests These group of pastoralists live a semi-nomadic life, tied to the arid and semiarid region on the fringes of Thar Desert. Forests are an essential resource in the dry-season grazing for their animals.
“The Supreme Court declared any kind of resource collection, including grazing of animals, in the wildlife conservation areas is illegal. The decision cut off over 1,20,000 hectares in Rajasthan alone that the Raika relied on for grazing their animals,” director of Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan Hanwant Singh Rathore said.
This has led to a decline in the local camel economy, forcing them to look for alternative professions.
Mutharaiyars and Their Coast The small-scale fishermen from Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu at the ongoing convention on biodiversity said that the installation of the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant has affected not just the rich aquatic life of the sea but also the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen.
Spartegus, a research associate with the Ramanathapuram Fishers’ Trade Union explained, “Since 2002, the 450 crore project of UNDP and GEF on the Gulf Of Mannar Biosphere reserve has taken a toll on everything. They have demarcated boundaries for fishing and are kicking us out of our own land.”
Of 22 islands near the Gulf, two are submerged and the other is now an Ash island due to excess dumping of ash by industries.